Reggae and jam band music have deep ties. Two of the most highly regarded jam bands of all time, The Grateful Dead (as well as their later incarnations) and Phish, both have reggae-influenced original songs and perform reggae covers from time to time. On the flip side, west coast reggae rock giants Slightly Stoopid performed at Bob Weir’s TRI studios, later releasing an album and DVD from that session.
Along similar lines, New Hampshire’s long time reggae jam studs Roots Of Creation have been known to weave Grateful Dead and Phish covers into their live shows and even featured a Dead cover, Row Jimmy, on their highly successful 2016 Livin’ Free LP.
This seems to have been the prelude of what was to come, as currently Roots of Creation are fundraising through Pledge Music to finance their Grateful Dub project, a full album of Grateful Dead covers inna reggae style. The campaign has been going on since the first of August, and currently the band is only 1% away from reaching their goal, with a deadline of midnight tonight.
If you’d like to help RoC reach their fundraising goal, click here.
RoC bandleader Brett Wilson, on the verge of having his second child any minute now, was kind enough to carve out some time to answer a few interview questions about this project, his love of The Dead and how their music has impacted his life and art. RoC keyboardist, Tal Pearson was there to give his perspective as well.
RF: What came first, your love of reggae or the Grateful Dead? How were you introduced to both types of music?
Tal Pearson: For me, the reggae came first. I was aware of artists like Bob Marley and Sublime when I was younger but really developed a love of the style and the scene once I was in college. I loved John Brown’s Body, Dub Trio, 10 Ft Ganja Plant, Giant Panda, etc. That was cool because not too long after that a lot of the West Coast bands that are pretty big now started to form, so there was always something or someone new to get into. And from there I worked my way backwards, exploring all the stuff that came before it.
As far as getting into the Dead, that was definitely a result of playing in RoC. I liked Phish, but I didn’t know too much about the Dead. Being around the jam band scene for so long sort of brought about this awareness and appreciation of them and the culture associated with them. Brett always listened to GD and Jerry Garcia Band, so I started finding songs that I liked here and there. Eventually a few of them started working their way into the RoC setlist and from there it grew into this whole project, Grateful Dub.
Brett Wilson: For me they both happened at the same time. My mom and her friend took me to a VT reggae festival when I was about 13. I’ll never forget Israel Vibration performing with braces on and smiling and dancing… My mom’s friend used to make me mix tapes and had Black Uhuru sign something for me which I still have in my office to this day. Reggae/Rock and Ska is really where I felt most at home in the discovery process. In terms of the Grateful Dead… I literally just posted a giant emotional facebook post about Jerry: “How Jerry Garcia Changed My Life”
RF: Did the Dead influence your songwriting or performing with RoC in any way?
TP: The jam band culture is definitely a part of ROC, from the way we operate and try to interact with fans, to the types of gigs that we like to play and feel the most comfortable at. As far as songwriting… I can only hope it starts to influence our songwriting more!
BW: For me more on the performing side. Not getting so pissed if I take a risk and mess up ‘cause it’s all in the interest of expanding and growing as a musician and band and doing it for the heads in the crowd! Like Tal said, I think we need to learn from their songwriting and Hunter’s deep poetry. It’s a goal of mine to work with him someday.
RF: What similarities do you find with the Dead and roots reggae, if any?
TP: Personally I find common themes of peace and love in both, but I try not to look too hard and let the music find it’s way.
BW: To me they are both essentially massive extensions of folk music. For the people, by the people. There is a serious sense of spirituality, lightheartedness and uniting in both forms of music and scenes.
RF: What are your favorite Dead albums or live shows that you have seen?
BW: Favorite Albums….
Dicks Picks Vol. #1 for the “Here Comes Sunshine”
Hundred Year Hall for the “China Cat Rider”
I have so many Maxell bootlegs tapes I’d have to go thru to find more. I really like their old self titled album… still listen to it on the monthly… super spacey weird RoC’n’roll.
Maaannnn thats a hard one… I never saw the GRATEFUL Dead live but I have seen The Dead, Dark Star Orchestra, Phil & Friends. Ratdog, David Grisman, The Other Ones, Mickey Hart Band, & so many more post Jerry incarnations. Melvin Seals & JGB are the “keepers of the flame” and never let me down. I’d have to share what an amazing experience it was to be invited to jam 1 ½ sets with them at Organic Smiles this past summer. Melvin takes me to church every time!
RF: The PledgeMusic page states that this idea was born out of a Halloween show where you performed all Grateful Dead music. How did the idea for that show come about? Where was it held and are the songs on the album the same you performed live?
TP: A few GD songs had started working their way into our setlist sometime in 2014 or 2015, so, when Halloween 2016 came around we were like how about Grateful “DEAD”. The arrangements we put together on the full setlist we were planning sounded so cool, we wanted to get them recorded. From there this excitement just sort of built up around it being a cool idea to do a tribute album of our own sorts with these cool versions of songs that people already love.
BW: Huge shoutout to Dan Webb and the Jerry Jam community for pushing us to explore this music in a live setting from when the concept was born until our first performance this summer with special guests Melvin Seals + Zach Nugent (of JGB), Paul Costley, a full horn section and Scott Guberman!
RF: How did you select which Grateful Dead songs to include on Grateful Dub?
TP: By picking ones we were good at playing!
BW: What Tal said hahaha plus the ones that I was able to sing confidently from playing over the years. We wanted to stay true the songs enough to be able to sing a long as deadheads and vibe out to the music in a RoC styleeee.
RF: How did you hook up with Errol Brown and what sort of elements did he bring to the production that differ from other producers you have worked with in the past? (Or your own production?)
TP: Errol brought the wisdom of someone with a great deal of experience and the ear of someone who is a legend in his own realm. Errol’s resume speaks for itself, but beyond that he was such a calm, humble, cool, focused, tasteful, warm presence in the studio that he really helped set the vibe for the record. He seemed to like what we were doing and we tried to take his advice as often as possible!
BW: Big shout out to Big Reggae Mix radio for introducing Errol into the RoC fam! I think I said it in the pledgemusic video… “he’s the grandfather we never had.” He’s such a good person. He brought the best out of all the players inside and out. I am sooooo excited to mix and master these tracks with the special guests on them after christmas and before our “Holiblaze 2017 Tour and NYE run!”
Help Roots of Creation meet their goal by contributing here.
Stay in the loop on the progress of the album here.